In June, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month three of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Suicide Squad #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Alex Lu: Regardless of what you think of the recent Suicide Squad movie, I think everyone can safely agree that this supervillain team’s profile has never been higher than it is now. Given that, Suicide Squad #1, written by Rob Williams and pencilled by the legendary Jim Lee has a lot to live up to. In our discussion of Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1, Kyle, I believe we ultimately agreed that the series was off to a serviceable start. The Rebirth issues, which are rumored to have been produced on an accelerated timeline, have generally felt unnecessary to the series that they serve as a springboard for because they were built into the line after the fact. Suicide Squad: Rebirth was a bit of an outlier in that it gave us a full adventure with the core members of Task Force X, injecting a requisite dose of action into our bloodstreams and making these various character introductions much more tolerable.
Given that, I just have to ask the question, Kyle: why did we get another prologue in Suicide Squad #1?
Kyle: My best guess? The brain-trust at DC wanted to play this as safely as possible, given that the Rebirth Issue and the proper Issue #1 both happened to release as Suicide Squad the movie is still wrapping its knuckles on cinemaplexes across the country. This, of course, speaks to the confusion that you brought up a few months ago in one of our initial review rounds (don’t ask me which one), where you highlighted just how odd it is that we have Rebirth #1’s and actual #1’s that also say DC Universe Rebirth on them. Anyhow, my guess is DC knows just how confusing this is, so they opted to make sure both issues were as new reader-friendly as possible. Or better yet, this prologue was put together with Jim Lee’s involvement and then, as you say, they had to make another issue but were unsure what else to do, so they came up with a prologue to the prologue…and well…the existence of that definitely made this a much rougher read in retrospect, am I right?
There’s something weird about combining the art of Jim Lee, one of the big iconic superhero artists with a bunch of pages of talking heads, but that’s what we basically get with this issue. We get intro’ed to the concept of Task Force X, we get the prerequisite rundown of all the players and their personalities and just when you think things are about to take off, they end up sitting in a circle and talking some more. Sure, I laughed a bit at Killer Croc vomiting, that was probably my favorite Lee drawn bit since Hitler on the toilet in Mastermen (though maybe there hasn’t been much in between those two), but there’s very little here. And annoyingly it ends just as momentum begins to build. What in the world? That’s certainly a choice I guess.
I gather given that earlier comment that your opinion on this about in line with mine?
Alex: Yes, basically. To put more of a pinpoint on the core problem here, I think Suicide Squad #1 is a much more disorienting and less interesting prologue than the Rebirth issue was. Like you said, Kyle, a lot of this book was talking heads whereas by comparison, Suicide Squad: Rebirth had a ton of character-defining action sequences.
I think that Rob Williams’ script for Suicide Squad #1 doesn’t serve the various members of Task Force X as well as his previous issue’s script did. I got a much better sense of who Deadshot was when he killed the man he was sent to save in Rebirth than I did here where he spends most of the book asleep and then wakes up to rejoice over his apparent demise. The one exception to this general sense of languidness is Amanda Waller’s narration. I’m a bit of a sucker for the poetic rhythm Williams gives to her monologues. In particular, I love the first page of the comic where Amanda says “Evil exists. There is terror and grief in this world. Just waiting. Every day” as she looks out her helicopter’s window and sees the faces of Scarecrow, Joker, and Gorilla Grodd appear in the rain clouds. It’s a cool moment of symbolic resonance that shows Williams and Lee working in harmony. I just wish we had more of that and less of the staid series of single panels showing various characters reacting to a single moment.
It’s hard to really know what to talk about with this book because so much of the plot covered here was already established in Suicide Squad: Rebirth. I suppose we should zoom in on Jim Lee and Alex Sinclair here then, given that they’re the new kids on this book’s block. What’d you think of their work here, Kyle?
Kyle: I tend to have some affection for Lee’s work, and perhaps that allows me to overlook any shortcomings or rushed pencils he may turn in every now and then. What he does here isn’t bad, but it’s just not necessarily suited to his talents. Watching Task Force X stand around like a bunch of action figures and not in the middle of a mission is not exactly my ideal presentation of this team, especially in Lee’s hands, but there’s a few bits here and there where you can see Lee attempting to stretch his muscles. I was pretty fond of that of that 9th page line-up of faceshots that leads to a humorous payoff with Killer Croc’s expression.
Clearly, Williams and King are mining poor Waylon for comedy gold, and to me that’s probably the highlight of the whole comic. But as for Sinclair? Well, I’m never a big fan of big swatches of orange and blue, and damn it if those aren’t the very colors that Sinclair utterly saturates the issue with. There are points where the color is so all invading that I had difficulty even uncovering the actual linework of Lee and Williams.
But really, what this boils down to is, there’s not much here, and I’d feel pretty ripped-off if I came into this issue expecting some actual story given the events of the issue previous. If this was my very first issue of the series, I’d still feel a little gipped, but since it’s not…well…
How about that backup, Alex? Did Jason Fabok help assuage your annoyance with this book at all? I can’t say it did a whole lot for me.
Alex: That’s a complicated question, Kyle. Honestly, I enjoyed the backup story, entitled “Never Miss,” more than I liked the main storyline in Suicide Squad #1. I think Rob Williams and Jason Fabok establish a solid rhythm and tell a very full story in a limited number of pages. It makes the lack of progress or momentum in Williams’ collaboration with Lee appear that much more egregious, in retrospect.
“Never Miss” basically retells Deadshot’s origin story. Like his cinematic counterpart, Deadshot in this book lives to protect his daughter, Zoe Lawton. When he is forced to do a work-for-hire assassination on behalf of the evil organization Kobra, who have kidnapped Zoe, Deadshot decides to work with Batman to save Zoe’s life. It doesn’t cover any new ground given what we’ve seen in the recent Suicide Squad movie, but I think it proves an important point about this series– WIlliams can tell a fast and compelling story when he wants to.
This leads me to a bigger question I have about Suicide Squad going forward, Kyle. Jim Lee has been and always will be a huge audience draw. People waited aeons for Batman: Europa and ate it up like candy when it was released. However, the backups in Suicide Squad, in at least some part, must exist because Jim Lee’s schedule won’t accommodate him drawing a full 20~ page comic every month on top of his duties as co-publisher. It makes space all the more valuable for this book and that much more egregious that so much was wasted in Suicide Squad #1. Given all these constraints on Lee’s time and the dull thud this first issue lands with, do you think that it’s worth running forward with Lee as series artist from a critical (not financial) perspective?
Kyle: Definitely not, if this is the kind of storytelling we can expect going forward, then I have no real interest in it. These back-ups are fine and all, but I thought that’s what Suicide Squad: Most Wanted was for, to tell individual, character driven stories that wouldn’t fit into the main title. To suddenly get back-ups that, while decent reads, cut into your page count, it just comes across as a general disservice to your readers. If you’re paying $2.99 twice a month for a title, I think you want to get what you’re paying for and I can’t help but imagine the eventual Suicide Squad Vol 1 collection is going to look a bit thin if this is the prevailing trend.
Whatever, I’m annoyed. This book annoyed me DC, thanks! Skip it.
Alex: Yep. I agree. I have high hopes for Williams’ storytelling, but Suicide Squad #1 is completely perfunctory given the existence of Suicide Squad: Rebirth.
Final Verdict: Pass